‘But men must know, that in this theatre of man’s life it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on’ – Francis Bacon
They stood in the wings of the stage, nervously running through their lines and giving one another terrified thumbs-ups.
Eleanor was only half listening to the welcoming speech that Priscilla was giving their audience since there was a loud buzzing in her ears; her skin felt hot, and she tottering on the edge of dizziness. Glancing around, she could see more than a few faces that were tinged with green. She shook herself. They’d done this hundreds of times – though admittedly without an audience – and there hadn’t been any major problems.
Besides, she thought, I’ve known this by heart since I was twelve, it’s not like I’ll forget anything.
Remus, who was skulking about behind her, gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. The looks of surprise they’d earned by leaving the cupboard hand-in-hand had almost been enough to restore Eleanor’s good mood. He looked awfully handsome in his smart cream and blue uniform.
She hated to admit it, but she felt a good deal happier about going on stage now that Remus was less terrified. She’d asked him about his sudden Zen-like calm, and he’d simply replied that it was ok because she’d be out there too.
She found this particularly strange since her presence hadn’t had that effect during rehearsals for the past year, but she let it go.
Somewhere out in the vast emptiness of the stage, she heard Priscilla wrap up her introduction.
Well, she thought, can’t back out now.
She took a deep breath and waited for the appropriate enchanted scenery to materialise.
When she walked out with her friends, they were stood in an orchard behind a stately looking Italian villa; she could just make out the impression of a large number of people staring up at her through the dazzlingly bright stage lights.
Her throat tightened involuntarily.
They were ranged about the stage in attitudes of repose: some were reading, some eating, some conversing; they were waiting for the appearance of Archibald Beck, playing the intrepid messenger to Don Pedro.
The sprightly Hufflepuff sprang on stage, bearing a scroll of parchment; the household watched him pass with great interest. He bowed stiffly to Frank and handed him the letter.
Frank opened it amiably.
“I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina!”
The assembled members of Leonato’s household expressed their excitement in the form of cheers and clapping; they chattered excitedly to one another.
“He is very near by this,” said Archie, happily. “He was not three leagues off when I left him!”
“How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?” Frank asked, looking concerned.
“But few of any sort, and none of name,” Archie exclaimed, to general relief.
“A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers,” said Frank, sagely. He shot a wicked grin at Lily, his daughter. “I find here that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio,” he teased, and Lily contrived to blush.
“Much deserved on his part and equally remembr’d by Don Pedro.” He smiled at Lily, correctly assuming her attachment to the gentleman. “He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion. He hath indeed better bett’red expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.”
Frank nodded, pleased.
“He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.”
“I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him; even so much that joy could not show itself modest enough without a badge of bitterness.”
“Did he break out into tears?” asked Frank.
“In great measure,” the messenger nodded.
“A kind overflow of kindness,” Frank philosophised, nodding. “There are no faces truer than those so washed. How much better it is to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!”
“I pray you,” asked Eleanor, fixing Archie with a shrewd smile. “Is Signior Mountanto returned from the wars or no?”
Archie looked perplexed.
“I know none of that name, lady. There was none such in the army of any sort.”
“What is he that you ask for, niece?” asked Frank, clearly intrigued.
“My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua,” said Lily, laughing.
Frank rolled his eyes; several of the household sniggered.
“O, he’s returned, and as pleasant as ever he was!” cried Archie.
“I Pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars?” asked Eleanor, lightly. “But how many hath he killed? For indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.”
Archibald looked mildly confused, but Frank frowned at her.
“Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much; but he’ll be meet with you, I doubt it not.”
Archie felt the need to defend his fellow soldier.
“He hath done good service, lady, in these wars – and a good soldier too lady.”
“And a good soldier to a lady!” cried Eleanor; there was a sort of collective chuckle from the audience and she felt herself relax a little. They were along for the ride. “But what is he to a lord?”
Archibald-the-gallant-messenger appeared to be somewhat out of his depth here:
“A lord to a lord,” he said, bemused; Frank patted him comfortingly on the shoulder. “A man to a man; stuffed with all honourable virtues.”
“It is so indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man!” Eleanor cried, triumphantly. “But for the stuffing – well, we are all mortal.”
Frank decided to intercede, since Archie was looking at his niece as if she were a mad-woman.
“You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a kind of a merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her. They never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.”
“Alas,” laughed Eleanor. “He gets nothing by that! In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed by one.” The audience made that strange, many-headed sound of lots of people laughing together. “Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.”
“Is’t possible?” asked Archie, still quite bewildered by the lady Beatrice.
“Very easily possible,” she responded, promptly. “He wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the next block.”
“I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books,” said Archie, seriously, to more laughter.
“No. And he were, I would burn my study,” she said, with a wry grin. “But I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the devil?”
Archie gave her a perturbed look and glanced at Lily.
“He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio,” he said.
“O, Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease!” she cried, grasping Lily’s arms and continuing theatrically to much laughter. “He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio if he have caught the Benedict; it will cost him a thousand pound ere a’ be cured!”
Lily giggled, along with her waiting ladies.
“I would keep friends with you, lady,” said Archie, smiling.
Eleanor grinned at him.
“Do, good friend.”
“You will never run mad, niece?” Frank enquired; he had been following the conversation with interest.
“No, not till a hot January,” she smiled.
Archie laughed along with the rest of the household, then pointed offstage excitedly.
“Don Pedro is approached!”
There was a general hurried standing up and straightening of clothes; Don Pedro and his men strode onstage. Eleanor took a second to take them in: they all looked smart and handsome in their uniforms – cream and blue for the majority, cream and black for three of them. Sirius, Nathan and Thomas had ranged themselves slightly apart from the company; they looked on with mild disdain.
Algernon took in the household with great approval; delicately, he took off his riding gloves.
“Good Signior Leonato, are you come to meet your trouble?” he asked, expansively. “The fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.”
“Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your Grace,” said Frank, with an easy dignity. “For trouble being gone, comfort should remain. But when you depart from me, sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave.”
Algernon laughed and the two men embraced, to general applause.
“You embrace your charge too lightly,” he said, cheerfully. “I think this is your daughter?” he asked, kissing Lily’s hand as she was presented to him.
Eleanor had to fight a laugh when she glanced at James, who was noticing Lily’s presence all too blatantly.
“Her mother hath many times told me so,” said Frank, proudly.
“Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?” enquired Remus, chirpily.
“Signior Benedick, no,” said Frank, tolerantly. “For then were you a child.”
The great, many headed beast of the audience chuckled.
“You have it full, Benedick. We may guess by this what you are, being a man,” said Algernon, patiently. “Truly the lady fathers herself,” he added, to Frank. “Be happy, lady, for you are like an honourable father.”
Lily curtsied and dimpled prettily.
“If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is,” said Remus, loudly, as various conversations sprang up around the stage.
“I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick,” said Eleanor acidly. “Nobody marks you.”
To her delight, Remus turned to her with a flash of annoyance; he’d really got it down now.
“What, my dear lady Disdain!” he spat. “Are you yet living?”
“Is it possible Disdain should die when she hath such meet food to feed her as Signior Benedick?” she asked, eyebrow raised. “Courtesy itself must convert to Disdain if you come in her presence.”
A few of the household and soldiers were turning to watch the skirmish with interest now; the burble of invented conversation dipped a notch.
“Then is Courtesy a turncoat,” said Remus, disdainfully, and Eleanor was forced to wonder fleetingly why his rude manner was currently such a turn on. “But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted,” he boasted. And I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.”
“A dear happiness to women!” Eleanor cried, to general snickering. “They would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor.” Everyone on stage was watching them now, expressions ranging from amused, to intrigued, to exasperated; the audience chortled. “I thank God and my cold blood I am of your humour for that. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me,” she said, with real venom.
“God keep your ladyship still in that mind, so some gentleman or other shall ‘scape a predestinate scratched face,” he retorted, losing a little of his cool.
Several people in the audience gasped and most of the players laughed; Eleanor waited for the burble of laughter to die down before delivering her answer.
“Scratching could not make it worse, and ‘twere such a face as yours were,” she said, sweetly, and the audience laughed outright.
“Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher,” he spat, scowling.
“Better a bird of my tongue than a beast of yours,” she shot back.
“I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue,” he said, wickedly, and she contrived to look greatly affronted. “And so good a continuer. But keep your way, a God’s name! I have done.”
He turned away, and Eleanor scowled after him.
“You always end with a jade’s trick,” she said, bitterly. “I know you of old.”
“That is the sum of all,” said Algernon, firmly. “Signior Claudio and Signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him we shall stay at the least a month –” he announced, to delighted applause from household and soldiers alike. “ – and he heartily prays some occasion may delay us longer. I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.”
“If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn,” Frank smiled, genially. He glanced at Sirius, who was still stood in his corner with his little knot of cream-and-black followers, with a sour expression on his face. “Let me bid you welcome, my lord,” he said, with gentle dignity. “Being reconciled to the Prince, your brother, I owe you all duty.”
“I thank you,” said Sirius, stiffly. “I am not of many words… but I thank you.”
Eleanor shivered a little and wondered whether he had learned this manner from his father.
Frank smiled and turned back to the throng, spreading his arms wide.
“Please it your Grace lead on?” he asked, and Algernon nodded, stretching out a hand.
“Your hand, Leonato. We will go together,” he said, and they led the way off stage. Eleanor, still shooting Remus dirty looks, followed them.
Remus chuckled and made to wash his face in the water from the well; James followed him with that trademark ‘I’m-thinking-about-Lily’ expression on his face. He watched his friends ablutions impatiently.
“Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?” he asked, as Remus dried his face; he looked up at him from behind a conveniently abandoned towel.
“I noted her not, but I looked on her,” he said.
“Is she not a modest young lady?” James asked, and Remus fought the urge to roll his eyes; this scene was, in many ways, sickeningly familiar.
“Do you question me as an honest man should do, for my simple true judgement?” he asked. “Or would you have me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex?”
“No,” said James, sounding annoyed. “I pray thee, speak in sober judgement.”
“Why, i’ faith, methinks she’s too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise,” he said, amused at the effect his words were having on his friend. “Only this commendation I can afford her, that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome, and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.”
“Though thinkest I am in sport,” said James, irritably. “I pray thee tell me truly how thou lik’st her.”
Remus stared at his friend, amused.
“Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?”
“Can the world buy such a jewel?” asked James, dreamily, his annoyance forgotten.
“Yea, and a case to put it in to,” said Remus, incredulously. “But speak you this with a sad brow? Or do you play the flouting Jack, to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder and Vulcan a rare carpenter?” He gave James a searching look. “Come, in what key shall a man take you to go in the song?”
“In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on,” said James, sincerely. Remus actually did roll his eyes this time.
“I can see yet without spectacles,” he said, and several people laughed, since James’s hand unconsciously went to his glasses. “And I see no such matter. There’s her cousin,” he continued, darkly. “And she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of May doth the last of December. But I hope you have no intent to turn husband,” he peered at his friend, worriedly. “Have you?”
“I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the contrary, if Hero would be my wife.”
Remus stared at him; James was still looking off in the direction Lily had left in, wistfully.
“Is’t come to this? In faith, hath not the world one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion?” he demanded, scornfully. “Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again? Go to, i’ faith! Look! Don Pedro is returned to seek you.”
James turned to his Prince, as Algernon returned, carrying a cup of wine. In honour of the casual nature of their stay he had unbuttoned the top of his uniform. He gave his companions a searching look.
“What secret hath held you here, that you followed not to Leonato’s?” he asked.
“I would your Grace would constrain me to tell,” said Remus, tersely.
Algernon raised an eyebrow.
“I charge thee on thy allegiance.”
“He,” he pointed at James, irritably. “Is in love.” Algernon’s expression shifted from faint worry to plain amusement. “With who? Now that is your Grace’s part. With Hero, Leonato’s short daughter!” Remus exclaimed, to general amusement on the audiences part.
“If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it should be otherwise,” muttered James, dully.
“Amen, if you love her, for the lady is well worthy,” said Algernon, amused.
“You speak this to fetch me in, my lord,” said James, shortly.
“By my troth I speak my thought,” replied Algernon.
“And, in faith, my lord, I spoke mine,” said James, getting irritated.
“And, by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine,” Remus interrupted, sounding exasperated. James thwapped him on the arm and he responded in kind; the audience tittered.
“That I love her, I feel,” insisted James.
“That she is worthy, I know,” Algernon assured him.
“That I neither feel how she should be loved, nor know how should be worthy, is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me. I will die in it at the stake,” Remus exclaimed, milking it for all it was worth. James and Algernon shared an amused and tolerant look.
“Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the despite of beauty,” said Algernon, fondly.
“And never could maintain his part but in the force of his will,” added James.
“That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks,” said Remus firmly. “But I will have a rechate winded in me forehead, or hang my bugle in invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me.” James and Algernon smiled wryly, and he continued, with determination. “Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust none; and the fine is (for which I may go the finer), I will live a bachelor.”
Algernon gave him a good-naturedly calculating look.
“I will see you, ere I die, look pale with love.”
“With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord, not with love,” said Remus, with open contempt for the emotion. “Prove that ever I lose more blood with love than I will get again with drinking, pick out mine eyes with a ballad maker’s pen and hang me up at the door of a brothel house for the sign of Blind Cupid.”
“Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou will prove a notable argument,” said Algernon, wryly; James grinned.
“If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapped on the shoulder and called Adam,” Remus retorted.
“Well, as time shall try: ‘In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.’,” said Algernon.
“The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead,” Remus said, ranting a little now. His back was to his companions, and Algernon mimed a pair of bulls’ horns on his head at James, who shook with silent laughter, eliciting sniggers from the audience.
“And let me be vilely painted,” Remus continued, warming to his theme. “And in such good letter as they write ‘Here is good horse to hire,’ let them signify under my sign ‘Here you may see Benedick the married man’!”
“If this should ever happen, though wouldst be horn-mad,” remarked James, and Algernon laughed.
“Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly,” he said, grinning.
“I look for an earthquake too then,” said Remus, hotly.
“Well, you will temporize with the hours,” said Algernon, genially. “In the meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to Leonato’s.” Remus straightened to receive his instructions, temporarily putting aside his scorn. “Commend me to him and tell him I will not fail him at supper; for indeed he hath made great preparation.”
Remus nodded, smartly and glanced at James.
“Examine your conscience,” he instructed him; his friend shook his head. “And so I leave you.” He gave Algernon a slight bow and strode offstage; his companions watched him go in amusement. James turned back to his Prince.
“My liege, your Highness now may do me good,” he said, hopefully.
“My love is thine to teach,” Algernon said, with a friendly nod. “Teach it but how and thou shalt see how apt it is to learn any hard lesson that may do thee good.”
“Hath Leonato any son, my lord?” James asked, as his companion sat himself on the lip of the well.
“No child but Hero; she’s his only heir. Dost thou affect her Claudio?”
“O my lord, when you went onward on this ended action, I looked upon her with a soldier’s eye, that liked, but had a rougher task in hand than to drive liking to the name of love,” said James, earnestly. “But now I am returned and that war-thoughts have left their places vacant, in their rooms come thronging soft and delicate desires, all prompting me how fair young Hero is, saying I liked her ere I went to wars.”
“Thou wilt be like a lover presently and tire the hearer with a book of words,” said Algernon, chuckling. “If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it, and I will break with her and with her father, and thou shalt have her.” He gave his friend a shrewd look. “Was’t not to this end that thou began’st to twist so fine a story?”
“How sweetly do you minister to love, that know love’s grief by his complexion!” James exclaimed. “But lest my liking might too sudden seem, I would have salved it with a longer treatise.”
“What need the bridge much broader than the flood?” asked Algernon, with a quirk of an eyebrow. “The fairest grant is the necessity. Look, what will serve is fit. ‘Tis once, thou lovest, and I will fit thee with the remedy,” he clapped him around the shoulder. “I know we shall have revelling tonight. I will assume thy part in some disguise, and tell fair Hero I am Claudio, and in her bosom I’ll unclasp my heart and take her hearing prisoner with the force and strong encounter of my amorous tale; then after to her father will I break, and the conclusion is, she shall be thine.” James was grinning like a madman, and Algernon returned his smile. “In practice let us put it presently,” he said, and together they left the stage, scheming.
They passed Eleanor and Remus in the wings, the latter having lingered there to steal a kiss as he exited the stage; they gave them the thumbs up.
“That was brilliant!” Eleanor hissed, and James grinned.
Algernon, however, was paying more attention to the fact that their hands were linked. He nodded to them.
“It’s about time,” he said, and sauntered off to get a drink of water, leaving them blushing in his wake. James shook his head at them.
“Did you think none of us had noticed?” he asked, satisfied at the mild look of surprise on Eleanor’s face.
He and Remus took themselves off to change their costumes for the masquerade. Eleanor fingered the edge of her mask, restlessly, and looked back out onto the stage…
Frank and Severus were ambling along a well kept garden path and discussing the upcoming party.
“Brother,” said Severus, drawing Frank to one side. “I can tell you strange news that you yet dreamt not of.”
“Are they good?” asked Frank, immediately interested.
“As the events stamps them,” said Severus. “But they have a good cover, they show well outward. The Prince and Count Claudio were thus much overheard by a man of mine.” He continued, candidly: “The Prince discovered to Claudio that he loved my niece your daughter and meant to acknowledge it this night in a dance, and if he found her accordant, he meant to take the present time to the top and instantly break with you of it.”
Frank looked amazed, and not a little excited.
“Hath the fellow any wit that told you this?” he asked.
“A good sharp fellow,” said Severus, earnestly. “I will send for him, and question him yourself.”
“No, no,” said Frank, with a smile. “We will hold it as a dream till it appear itself. But I will acquaint my daughter withal, that she may be the better prepared for an answer, if peradventure this be true. Go you and tell her of it!”
They hurried offstage again, presumably to do just this; Severus stayed with Eleanor to watch the next scene, and turned just in time to see the swirl of enchantment that caused the scenery to shift. Where before there had been a bright garden, a dark chamber was spread, with a great table and chair…
Sirius stamped in and threw his sword to the table, belt and all; he took off his jacket as if it had personally insulted him and threw it on the floor before flinging himself moodily into the chair.
Thomas Abbot followed him in at a somewhat wary distance, carrying wine and a platter of food, which he set down on the table. Sirius gave him a dark look.
“What the Goodyear, my lord!” exclaimed Thomas. “Why are you thus out of measure sad?”
“There is no measure in the occasion that breeds; therefore the sadness is without limits,” huffed Sirius, sulkily; he loosened his shirt at the top and reached for a small bunch of grapes.
“You should hear reason…” said Thomas, soothingly, retrieving the discarded jacket and laying it on the table.
“And when I have heard it, what blessing brings it?”
“If not a present remedy, at least a patient sufferance,” Thomas said, pouring a cup of wine for his Prince. Sirius took it gracelessly.
“I wonder that thou, being (as thou say’st thou art) born under Saturn, goes about to apply a moral medicine to a mortifying mischief,” he said, tartly. “I cannot hide what I am,” he proclaimed, standing and beginning to pace. “I must be sad when I have cause, and smile at no man’s jests; eat when I have stomach, and wait for no man’s leisure; sleep when I am drowsy, and tend on no man’s business; laugh when I am merry, and claw no man in his humour.”
“Yea,” said Thomas, watching him carefully. “But you must not make the full show of this till you may do it without controlment,” he advised. “You have of late stood out against your brother, and he hath ta’en you newly into his grace, where it is impossible you should take true root but by the fair weather that you make yourself. It is needful that you frame the season for your own harvest.”
Sirius gave a cruel laugh.
“I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace,” he spat. “And it better fits my blood to be disdained of them all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any. In this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain dealing villain!” he cried, backing Thomas into a wall and looming threateningly over him. “I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog; therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage. If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking. In the meantime,” he growled, pointing an authoritative finger at the quivering Thomas. “Let me be that I am, and seek not to alter me.”
“Can you make no use of your discontent?” Thomas asked, once Sirius had backed off a little.
“I make all use of it, for I use it only. Who comes here?”
Nathan ambled in, a mask and cloak over his arm.
Sirius brightened at the appearance of his second companion, and Thomas breathed a sigh of relief.
“What news, Borachio?” asked Sirius, taking a bite from an apple.
“I came yonder from a great supper,” said Nathan, cheerfully. “The Prince your brother is royally entertained by Leonato, and I can give you intelligence of an intended marriage.”
“Will it serve for any model to build mischief on?” Sirius asked, much intrigued. “What is he for a fool that betroths himself to unquietness?”
“Marry, it is your brother’s right hand,” said Nathan, taking some of the grapes and popping them into his mouth. Thomas gave him a pinched look.
“Who?” asked Sirius. “The most exquisite Claudio?”
“Even he,” said Nathan.
“A proper squire!” cried Sirius. “And who? And who? Which way looks he?”
“Marry, one Hero, the daughter and heir of Leonato.”
“A very forward March-chick! How came you to this?” asked Sirius.
“Being entertained for a perfumer, as I was smoking a musty room, comes me the Prince and Claudio, hand in hand in sad conference,” explained Nathan, sniggering. “I whipped me behind the arras and there hear it agreed upon that the Prince should woo Hero for himself, and having obtained her, give her to Count Claudio.”
“Come, come, let us thither,” said Sirius, a dark excitement crossing his features. “This may prove food to my displeasure. That young start-up hath all the glory of my overthrow. If I can cross him any way, I bless myself any way. You are both sure, and will assist me?”
“To the death, my lord,” Thomas assured him, and Nathan nodded.
“Let us to the great supper,” said Sirius, picking up his coat and sword. “Their cheer is the greater that I am subdued. Would the cook were o’ my mind! Shall we go prove what’s to be done?”
“We’ll wait upon your lordship,” said Nathan, following Thomas and Sirius offstage.
As he ducked offstage Sirius nearly walked straight into Remus, who was waiting to make his entrance to the revelry scenes. He glanced behind him as the scenery changed with a soft ‘whoosh’. Remus caught his arm.
“About yesterday –”
“I’m so sorry, I –”
“I know… and I know you were just trying to protect Ellie.”
Sirius looked astonished.
“You don’t hate me?”
“I might have, if you hadn’t good reason – it was a misunderstanding, Sirius, they happen to the best of us.”
“Well… thanks…” he said, and Remus shrugged, good-naturedly.
For a few moments, Sirius just stared at Moony; was it him, or did his friend look taller today? He was holding himself differently… more confidently.
“You know,” said Sirius, smiling a little. “You and Ellie would make a great couple – you should ask her out.”
To his surprise, Remus didn’t scoff or deny any kind of attachment; instead he broke out into a wide grin.
“Well, actually…” he began.
‘The pit of a theatre is the one place where the tears of virtuous and wicked men alike are mingled’ – Denis Diderot